ARTS / Cries & whispers

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The Independent Culture
SCHOOL'S out and Fresh Art, the annual pick of the fine-art degree shows, is at the Business Design Centre, London N1 (until tonight). The show really is fresh. The artists are students (just), and walking round the vast space, you really feel that they have done the work they wanted to, savouring a last uncompromised fling before bending to commercial realities.

There's every sort of art, from huge dripping canvases to barmy installations to delicate lithographs. And every sort of material: a jacket made of human hair, a muff made of pheasant feathers, a pencil-sharpener made of plaster, a lectern made of red velvet with a Bible made of brass. There are no dead sheep, though a life-size cow meets you at the top of the stairs and I found a dead butterfly in a drawer of one exhibit. There are pieces you'd pay to have, and with 1,000 works priced from pounds 50 to pounds 5,000 you should find something that appeals.

But some ideas are fresher than others. Ever since I was a student myself I have been looking at things in rows and columns (Fresh Art offers brown paper bags, televisions and stuffed, grubby, tumbling Babygros), things which inflate (giant hairy legs, black rubber ruched-blind-meets-duvet), and things cast in latex (often these are monster condoms dangling on a wall - when the real thing's rubbery, who needs them?).

Worst of all, every second exhibit at Fresh Art is Untitled. Why is this? Does the creative process stop short of thinking up a name? Are these visual young people frightened of words? Books have names. Films have names. Operas have names. Why shouldn't paintings? Even if you once approved of the untitled ploy, it has now become an awful cliche.

MY APPEAL to the Glyndebourne booers to explain themselves has fallen on deaf ears. But an interesting new theory comes from a very interesting source. 'I wasn't one of the booers,' it begins. 'As a member of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment I can't really let rip in that way. But I wasn't in the least surprised to hear the boos. The platform lift makes a horrible growling noise which must be audible to at least half of the stalls (hence the notion that only the toffs were outraged), and the producer (Deborah Warner) has inexplicably and in my opinion unforgivably chosen to activate the hoist at two of the most sublime moments: the first-act final trio in which there is singing of the highest order, and the end of Zerlina's tender second-act aria when savage breasts are meant to be most soothed. I am upset every time we play it.'

So there we are. A mystery solved.

FORGET shopkeepers. The British are a nation of clerihew composers. Or so my mailbag has suggested since last Sunday's launch of The Arts Clerihew, a weekly adornment to this column. One reader sent in six. Another did 10. Several, in their eagerness, ignored the rules. To recap: a clerihew is a four-line poem, rhyming AABB, scanning hardly at all, about a famous person, whose name is the first line. A textbook example comes from Roger Betteridge of Derby, who wins our first pounds 5 prize:

Simon Rattle

Fights a mighty battle

To avoid the barber who might otherwise have come

From Seville to Brum.

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